Mount Madonna park in southern Santa Clara County, already a favorite for Bay Area campers, is about to add some turf.

The Peninsula Open Space Trust this week revealed that it had acquired 260 acres of property known as the Triple Buck Ranch west of Gilroy, which will expand the adjacent park. Mount Madonna county park borders the property on three sides.

The additional open space expands an area already rich in Redwoods, oak woodlands and wildflowers, a popular destination for families to camp and for scouting trips. The park straddles the Santa Cruz Mountains between Gilroy and Watsonville.

Among the features of the new ranch property is Little Arthur Creek, considered by open space officials to be the most productive steelhead trout spawning ground in the county.

The trust purchased the ranch for $2 million from a group of business partners who owned the property since the early 1970s, when they bought it for hunting. Della Maggiora, one of those partners, said he always wanted to preserve the land for open space.

"I've seen a lot of land subdivided over the years, and I always wanted this property not to be subdivided," Maggiora said.

The trust will maintain the land until the county parks and recreation department takes ownership. The ranch adds another chapter to the history of the Mount Madonna park, which includes being the site of the summer home of legendary cattle baron Henry Miller in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has also been a haven for clandestine marijuana growing operations, forcing law enforcement to periodically conduct clearing operations.


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But county officials were more focused this week on expanding the park's reach with the pristine ranch property.

"This beautiful piece of property will ultimately expand Mount Madonna county park and be a great addition to our county park system," county Supervisor Mike Wasserman said.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.